Should Videos be a part of your Marketing Strategy?

Video-Marketing-Plan

A cat runs across a room and slides easily into a box that had, up until a second ago, seemed impossibly small for the fat feline to squeeze into. The cat and the box hurdle across the floor and collide into a nearby wall with a thump. But, to your surprise, the cat is not hurt. In fact, it seems happy. It appears as if it really wants to be in the box. You laugh, hit “share”, and wait for your friends to watch the video, too, knowing they're going to love it just as much as you do. maru_the_cats_boxes

We've all seen these kinds of viral videos. And they go viral for a good reason: They're funny, cute, and just plain entertaining.

It makes sense, then, that a lot of companies want to follow suit and make their own videos, hoping to bring this viral attention to their brands. They want a taste of that fame, to bring in a bit of fun and excitement to liven things up a bit. It's not rocket science, right? And it shouldn't be too difficult to include videos as a part of your marketing strategy, right?

Well, that's true... and it's not true. Vague, we know. But we'll explain below, so read on to find out more!

The Pros of Video Marketing:

Videos keep attention longer than blog posts.short-attention-span

If your video is short (roughly under 5 minutes) you're much more likely to hold someone's attention. Many people don't want to read until the end of a lengthy blog post, so why would they want to slog through a long video? However, if a video is short and engaging, they're much more likely to stick around.

So do longer videos ever work at all? Is there any point in even making a long video anymore? Actually, there are some cases in which, yes, longer videos work better. They're the best option for tutorials, because many times you'll have to go quite into depth with the topic at hand. The videos can be edited for extraneous fluff, but even if they're still longer than five minutes after the editing, people won't really mind. They're going to pause and take notes anyway so that they can follow along.

Fun to watch, easy to share!

If you make an entertaining video, people are going to have fun watching it. Even if you're trying to make a traditional educational video, there are still ways to brighten things up a bit and make sure that everyone watching has a good time. Infusing a bit of humor, using colorful graphics and upbeat background music, and having good cuts and editing all go a long way!

When your audience really connects with a video, it's only natural that they're going to want to share, especially with friends who have similar interests. This means that as the video spreads across networks, you're more likely to get more regular viewers. The best part? You don't necessarily have to spend any money to do this. Like any other social network, sharing is built into most video marketing platforms. All you have to do is keep making great videos, and your audience will grow.

People enjoy seeing the inner workings of things.

Videos have a special way of allowing us to take everything in: We see what is going on, and we hear what is happening. We cannot touch, taste, or smell, but a video is still much more immersive than, say, a blog post. People feel like they get behind the scenes of your business, and that gives them a connection that possibly didn't exist before. It lets them get closer to you and to the brand, and that's a great way to make a lasting impression.

seo-videoThey can help with SEO and traffic.

Naturally, videos will show up in searches if they're relevant enough. This will help with your SEO and rankings. Having a YouTube channel rank alongside your Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and LinkedIn is immensely helpful. People are keen to click on videos in search results--it's easier than skimming through a wall of text. So really, it's one more great way for your customers to find you and interact with you!

Bonus: Because you can link to your site as well as social media profiles from your YouTube profile page, you can drive traffic from the YouTube page to your other sites without any effort at all. If you want to go an extra step, you can include interactive hyperlinks in your videos to allow viewers to click and go straight to your site from the video screen.

Note: There are many other sites aside from YouTube that you can use to host videos. Check out more information on creating a video marketing strategy and choosing a video hosting platform at Vidyard.com!

The Cons of Video Marketing:

They can take a lot of time to make.

Unfortunately, videos do take quite some time to make. If you're making an educational video, you're going to have to outline everything and spend a lot of time making sure everything you do is clear and concise. If you are making something funny, you'll have to write a script—it's much more difficult to make something creative and spontaneous than you probably think it is. And if you're making a straight-forward video about your company, you'll have to make sure everyone is dressed professionally and understands what you're doing. Making videos is a very involved process, so it's something you'll have to consider heavily before undertaking the project.

video-productionTo appear professional, you must have a budget.

This relates to the time spent on the video... because if you spend a lot of time filming and putting together something of high quality, you're going to need an editor. And to get the good equipment required, you'll need to have a budget. Furthermore, to promote your videos, you'll more than likely have to spend money on advertising. You can find some good information on that process at Content Marketing Institute.

If your company doesn't have a large budget available for videography, there's no need to worry. There are sites out there that can help you create a decent setup that looks professional enough for very little money.

You'll also need to come up with creative ideas for videos to be effective.

As mentioned above, you can't just take any old idea and put it into a video. In order for your videos to be effective, you're going to have to be a little bit more creative than you may have been in the past. Try collaborating with your employees and staff to come up with ideas. If you already have a creative team, sit down and brainstorm. All of this is time-consuming and it can be difficult to agree on things, but if you can pull it off, it's worth it in the end!

Moderating comments can be a pain!

YouTube is notorious for its terrible comments. Even if you choose to do short videos via Vine or Instagram, you're still going to get unpleasant or spammy replies. For some platforms, you can choose to leave comments off altogether to take care of this problem. Other platforms don't offer that option. Most people who make videos want to facilitate conversation around the content, though, so they invite people to participate. So if you choose to use a platform where you can moderate your comments, you'll quickly find that it can be a real pain. However, if you want to keep your company image clean, you're going to have to get rid of the duds. This can take some dedication to vigilance, so it's definitely something you'll want to consider beforehand.

Of course, let's not be all negative here. You're going to get some positive comments, too—we're just trying to make it clear that it's important to be aware of the potential difficulties that can arise with commenting systems.

So what do you think? Do the pros outweigh the cons, or are you pretty much set against including videos as a part of your marketing strategy?

At Internet Local Listings, we make videos for all clients who sign up for one of our marketing packages. These are basic videos designed to help you with ranking, and our turnaround time is fast. If you want to get started with videos now, visit us and we can help you get started!

New Social Media Trends You'll See in 2015

Social Media Trends in 2015

As the year 2014 draws to a close, many of us are looking forward to a nice, relaxing holiday. And it's well deserved--2014 was a busy year for us! But for marketers? Marketers tend to struggle with letting their brains completely relax, and so are already looking ahead to 2015 and analyzing social media trends to figure out how to plan an even better marketing strategy. So let's talk about marketing with social media. What can we expect to see in 2015?

While we don't think we will be seeing tons of innovation (more on that below), we will see an increase in what's already becoming popular: More visual content and more mobile content. Let's take a look at some examples:

E-Commerce will take off

E-Commerce

 

Image courtesy of Mashable.com

Earlier in the year, Facebook and Twitter began playing around with “buy” buttons that appeared alongside content. This made it so that users could easily make purchases with just a few clicks, and they'd never even have to leave the network.

And guess what? It seems they're doing pretty well with it.

You can expect this to continue into 2015, with many advertisers pushing hard to integrate this strategy in the top social media sites. By sticking that button in there, it not only increases the likelihood that someone will purchase something from your website, it also gives hard sales numbers for analysts to keep exact track of data. Before, this wasn't possible. And considering that currently, over half of all mobile searches lead to a purchase, you can see why it makes marketers so giddy. So if you want to be on top of the e-commerce trend, you're definitely going to be ready to implement these changes in the coming year.

Social media marketing will be even more popular

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Content strategy was a central theme to marketing in 2014. And guess what? It's going to be sticking around for 2015. But this time around, marketers are going to press for a content strategy by leaning heavily on social media distribution.

What does that mean? Basically, there were a lot of companies that created content in 2014, but a good percentage of them didn't bother to amplify this content through social media channels. And to be honest, that's just silly. Promoting your content through popular social media platforms should be your primary goal in terms of content marketing. Your reach and visibility is greatly increased through social media. If you need more proof, you can read more here, here, or here. Take your pick :)

You're going to see even more new networks

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Yes, we know, we said right away in the article that there wasn't going to be a whole lot of innovation. So you might be wondering: If this is the case, then how can there be so many new social networks popping up? Ello, Yik Yak, and many others have burst onto the scene, so what gives?

Well, there's always going to be someone new, someone trying to take a slice of the pie that is already being shared between social media giants like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest. But will they last? Many of these new sites promise true privacy (and this is a draw to many with all the recent privacy breaches), but even if they deliver, it's still incredibly difficult to make a dent in the already over-saturated social media scene. A large number of new social media platforms end up feeling incredibly empty and lonely, which directly goes against the primary reason people use social media in the first place: to be social!

So while you're going to see lots of new, shiny sites to sign up for, don't worry too much about being on top of every new trend: Many aren't going to last. It's still worth it to be aware of the trends, though!

Have you noticed any other social media trends that you think are going to be big in the coming year? Let us know in the comments!

Holiday Shopping with Social Media

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As we draw closer to Thanksgiving, ads for the upcoming shopping season can be seen everywhere: From the mall to the grocery store, it seems there's always a reminder that the holidays are sneaking up on you, and your window of opportunity nabbing the best gifts is closing. But whether you're the type who wants to go out and get all the best products on Black Friday, or you're more the kind of person who procrastinates until mid-December, you're still always looking for a great deal! After all, you don't want to spend more money than you have to, and you definitely want the whole shopping process to be as painless as possible. And that means you're probably going to do your fair share of shopping online. But in 2014, online shopping can be a lot more than just logging on to your favorite store and filling up your cart. You can also utilize the power of social media to do your holiday shopping.

By using social media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest, you can easily find what you're looking for in multiple places. You can quickly compare availability, prices, and more. Even better, you can read reviews and get feedback on any items before you add anything to your cart. Sure beats the old way of doing things, doesn't it?

Here are a few ways you can use social media for your holiday marketing strategy—and maybe even use some of these tips yourself when you go shopping!


 

Holiday Marketing with Twitter

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In a survey conducted among 500 US adults, 36% said they wanted to use Twitter for holiday gift ideas. Another 35% admitted they used the social media platform to find links to the business's online store.

Now, in case you didn't know, 284 million people are on Twitter and active every month. That's a lot of potential business.

Furthermore, 4 in 10 consumers who are active on Twitter plan on beginning their holiday shopping before Thanksgiving. That leaves about a week and half from the publishing of this article to get your store holiday-ready! You can begin by tweeting about special deals, ask your followers to "please retweet" your updates, and direct people to your store for coupons or special checkout codes. Perhaps you could offer a "new followers" coupon for your new fans. Think outside the box on this one--people who use Twitter want to get information and get it fast. If you deliver it in an attention-grabbing way, you're sure to get a few new eyes on your merchandise.


 

Holiday Marketing with Facebook

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With Facebook, you are provided a more “permanent” platform to advertise to your fans. Permanent is in quotes because, of course, Facebook is actually moving at a rapid pace--updates seem to come and go quickly, and the feed refreshes constantly. But fans can easily find apps or albums that you've set up on your business page to promote your holiday specials. You can make your page visually appealing and full of content to entice your audience. Plus, sharing on Facebook works a bit differently than sharing on Twitter does—people get more personally invested. Family members are likely to share with one another over Facebook, whereas Twitter tends to foster more professional connections. When was the last time you tweeted your grandparents? (or grandchildren!)

A good place to start is with two of the biggest shopping days of the year: Black Friday and Cyber Monday. According to AllFacebook.com, Black Friday and Cyber Monday are growing into a quarter-long phenomenon. They urge businesses and advertisers to “capitalize on lower reach costs and high consumer engagement before and after peak days.”

Yeah, yeah, that's nice. But what does it mean for small businesses?

Basically, that you can promote your great deals before and after days like Black Friday and Cyber Monday to get the best returns. But that doesn't mean you should only focus on those days. You should also keep promoting your business's specials throughout the holiday season, because shoppers will be buying more heavily until Christmas.


 

Holiday Marketing with Pinterest

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If you haven't gotten into the habit of posting to a Pinterest board, you might want to start: 47.7% of holiday shoppers say that Pinterest has influenced their buying decisions. That's a lot of people!

But just how can you make the most out of your pins and get people interested in your products? It'll take a bit of creative thinking, but if you try, we bet you can come up with a variety of effective marketing strategies. For example, you could try making a themed board. You can showcase great gift ideas. You can create a storyboard where a shopper uses your product to bring happiness to friends and family. You can show how other customers choose to use your products to make their lives better. It's all in how you choose to present yourself!

We hope that these tips have been helpful for you. The holidays are a great time for helping customers get the special gifts they want for friends and family. By putting your best foot forward, you can prove to your community that you are dedicated to their needs, and that you're ready to help them make this holiday season the best one yet!

Can you think of any other ways to use Twitter, Facebook, or Pinterest for holiday marketing? It's always a learning experience, and everyone gets different results. But with a little bit of practice and creativity, you can learn how to get more sales, happier customers, and better engagement during the holiday season. If you have any tips or tricks, be sure to leave them in the comments below!

Good luck!

Back to Basics #22: Small Business Marketing for Local Storefronts

SMALL BUSINESSMARKETINGFOR LOCAL STORES Here at Internet Local Listings, we focus on helping our small business clients with all of their online marketing needs—social media, websites, and managing local listings for a variety of business directories. This is an important part of your small business marketing plan, because being seen online is integral to your success as a business in the modern marketplace. And, as you know, it can be a bit confusing and time-consuming to handle all this on your own. Having help is a great asset in this case.

However, what we aren't able to help with is the management of your storefront. That might sound obvious, but an important aspect of small business marketing that many people overlook is the effect that a storefront's appearance can have on a customer. You already know that first impressions matter when you're on a job interview or first date, and the same can be said of a customer's first visit to your business—a store's appearance can have tremendous influence over whether a person chooses to return or not. In this article, we'll talk a bit about how appearance can affect a customer's decision to purchase or leave, as well as how keeping your store beautiful can help create more online interactions and engagement.

A Storefront's Appearance Matters.

According to a study done at Retail Customer Experience, more than two-thirds of the surveyed group had avoided a store simply because the storefront was unattractive, outdated, or dirty. Although it might be a bit difficult to make a building look newer than it is (particularly if you share the building with other offices and have no control over renovations), it's always possible to keep the inside of your store looking neat and tidy.

pretty-store

Image from I Loved New York.com

Keep the Place Smelling Fresh.

Aside from keeping your store's appearance tidy and clean, you're going to want to make sure it smells okay. This might seem as obvious as keeping it clean, but if you're, say, a car mechanic and you're used to the smell of oil, you might not realize how off-putting it can be to some people. While you obviously can't control the smell of the vehicles you're working on in your shop, you can control the smells in the lobby. Brew some fresh coffee. Set up snacks. Keep everything wiped down and clean; keep the doors to the shop closed to prevent extra noise and smells sneaking in. Finally, you may want to use this as an opportunity to promote some great-smelling air fresheners!

This goes for any industry, however. Even if you run a bookstore (and many people love the smell of books), make sure that everything is clean without overdoing it on the “chemical” smell.

The “First Ten Feet” Rule.

According to Rick Segel, author of Retail Business Kit for Dummies, you must offer a price-sensitive incentive for customers to continue shopping within the first 10 feet of the door. For example, this could be a special offer you're running, a promotion for your store's top-selling product, or even a poster board offering information on local community events. Whether you're in the business of selling auto parts or you offer home cleaning services, you can always find some related community events or classes that would appeal to your clientele. Don't be afraid to get creative—have some of your customers asked questions about the availability of a specific product? Have they asked where you could learn more about your business? Maybe they just simply get lost on the way to the bathroom! Do whatever you can to help them feel welcome and at home in your store, and they'll be likely to remain long enough to explore. Plus, you may just earn yourself a repeat customer!

clean-store

Maintain Your Store's Fixtures.

Sometimes your store is clean, your employees are welcoming, and the place is set up to draw the customers in—but people just aren't staying. You're confused and you're wondering what could be going wrong.

  • Take a step back from your store. Walk into it again as if it were the first time you'd ever set foot in it. Now, you're probably so used to it that this will be difficult for you, but try really hard to place yourself in your customers' shoes. Here are some key things to look for:
  • Are your displays are neatly arranged? Do they look up-to-date? An old, faded poster or a messy stack of “clearance” products might make your store look disorganized.
  • Do the lights seem too dim or too bright? If they're too dim, it might make your store look unwelcoming or shady—which is, naturally, off-putting to customers. If your lights are too bright, it can make customers feel uncomfortable, too, because who wants to feel like they need to wear sunglasses inside of a store?

Finally, make sure your staff is friendly and welcoming.

Make sure there's always a manager or knowledgeable person available to answer your customer's questions. And of course, ensure everyone looks his or her best to keep with the professional appearance you've worked so hard to instill in your store.

The wonderful part of keeping your storefront clean and inviting is that it will cross over into the online realm. People will be happy to leave you positive reviews. They'll want to follow you on Facebook or Twitter to see what your new specials are. They'll refer friends and family. Remember that this is all part of the bigger picture--getting the word out about your fantastic business!

welcoming-customers

Small business marketing is complex. It's a mixture of online finesse as well as a little bit of good, old-fashioned business skills. While the marketing experts at Internet Local Listings can help you with the internet marketing part of the equation, we can only offer tips for the local aspect of it! We hope you've found these helpful!

If you have any tips or suggestions, leave them in the comments below! And be sure to subscribe for regular updates from our small business marketing blog.

Back to Basics #20: How to Build a PR Strategy as a Local Business

how-to-build-a-pr-strategy-as-a-small-business  

An important part of running your small business is to make sure that you have a strong PR strategy in place. PR stands for public relations, and it is an integral part of defining your target market and reaching them in a positive and effective manner. It's impossible nowadays to run a business and a marketing campaign without considering your approach to PR as well.

If you're new to the idea of public relations, no worries! In this post, we'll talk about some of the basics that you can do to help improve your presence and positive image in your community.

Define Your Audience.

There's no use in trying to market to anyone if you can't decide who to market to. Think about it: If you own a retirement community and you're looking to appeal to new residents, sending out advertisements to college students isn't going to help you very much. This is why you need to define your audience before you begin. Once you have that figured out, you can move on to planning your strategy.

To get started on this, you can take a look at who is already visiting your page using a Google Analytics account. You can find the basics of how to set up an account here. Once you have determined who is interested in your site, you can easily start sorting out your marketing methods to appeal to those demographics.

doing-online-research

Get Online.

With your new audience in mind, go to where they hang out. The easiest way will be to reach them online, although depending on your audience, you may still be able to reach people by cold calling or newspaper advertisements. But for many of us, our audience is online, just waiting to be found!

Consider your brand identity when going online, too. Your company will be associated with your positive image. How will you help your customers remember you? How will you stand out in the crowd? Work this into your campaign. When you’re updating social media, keep a clear and consistent voice. Don't talk about personal things or your opinions on the latest political argument. Keep your words professional—nothing can ever be scrubbed completely from the internet. Don't fall into the trap of getting confrontational or controversial!

Find Opportunities to be Seen in the Community.

For local businesses, an integral part of success is being seen in the community. Whether you're a new business or you've been around for 40 years, you need to be active, visible, and a positive force in your community. People love connecting with local business owners. And if you leave a positive impression on them, you can bet that they'll remember you the next time they're looking for someone who provides your products and services!

A great way to do this is to look for ways to volunteer. Whether you want to donate food to a shelter or donate some money to a cause you believe in, any step toward charitable giving is a positive one. You can take part in local festivals and events by offering coupons to guests, or you can even set up raffles so you can get people excited about interacting with you. Or you could simply help out the community around the holidays, whether you're involved with a parade or a school fundraiser. There are tons of ways to get involved, so get creative!

Find Speaking Opportunities.

Almost everyone hates public speaking. But if you get over your fears long enough to do get up in front of a crowd, you can generate some great exposure for your business. Is there a trade show or conference going on in your town? Look into becoming a speaker for the event—you could be on a panel or even nominate yourself to be the keynote speaker if you feel you have the chops!

Be forewarned, however, that these endeavors take a lot of preparation. Furthermore, you'll have to plan for these events because many are scheduled months ahead of time. But if you do your research and come prepared, you'll find that the results you get can be fantastic.

pressrelease

Pitch Your Story.

Did you know that journalists can be reached through social media? Before, you might have had to call them up, fax them, or email them. But today, journalists contribute to blogs, have social media accounts, and network with other journalists. This creates a number of free opportunities for you to reach out and contact them. Comment on their Facebook posts. Track them down on Twitter and engage them in conversation. Find blogs they contribute to so that you know and understand their work. If they're looking for stories that you think they could use in a story, reach out and give them your ideas. It helps to have a kind of “press release” prepared beforehand so that you can give them what they need with little turnaround--you need to remember that they're very busy and often get pitched to many times a day. Keep in contact with them and they'll be more likely to remember you the next time they're doing a story in a similar vein.

Decide On Your Best Approach.

Okay, maybe none of these things appealed to you. Maybe you're more about writing things on your own. Or maybe you prefer radio to seminars. There are a number of ways that you can get in contact with the public, and the great thing is that they're all still very effective ways of boosting your presence. You may want to try:

  • Writing your own press releases, articles, or even letters to your local newspaper editor.
  • Writing an ebook to appeal to your customers—“how to” tips tend to work well.
  • Volunteering at or sponsoring an event.
  • Signing up to speak at a seminar or convention—or you could even take part in an online webinar!
  • Do press conferences, offer to be on a radio program, or see if you can land a spot on your local evening news.
  • Put together testimonials, positive reviews, and success stories to keep on hand whenever you appear in public. People love inspiring stories and knowing that you're reputable, too!

With these tips, you can decide how you want to approach your PR campaign and which options work the best for your vision. All of these tips are free or low-cost—it all depends on how much work you want to put into it on your own vs. hiring a PR consultant.

Do you have any other tips on how to build a PR strategy as a local business? Let us know in the comments!

Back to Basics #19: Digital Marketing for the Holidays

digital-marketing-for-the-holidays Ahh, you knew something like this was coming up soon. It's October, which means that autumn decorations have been on the shelves since the 4th of July clearance rack cleared out (for Americans, anyway). Soon, you'll see Thanksgiving decorations, and then come the December holidays—it's all going to be Christmas and Hanukkah themes until it's almost 2015. And let's not forget about Black Friday and Cyber Monday...

During these next few months, you're going to see a lot of expensive marketing campaigns from big name companies. You'll see sales events, promotional deals, and all sorts of bundles and shipping specials and limited-time releases that your head might feel like its spinning.

And, as a small business owner, you might feel pressured to come up with some campaigns of your own.

But you don't have millions in your budget. And you don't have a lot of time to put something together. So how can you go about digital marketing for the holidays if you own a small business?

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1. Make a charitable donation. This is probably our favorite suggestion because it really helps everyone! You get to help others and draw attention to a great cause, as well as draw positive attention to your business.

Whether you choose to donate a small sum of cash or you volunteer your time at a local charity, these types of gestures speak volumes. Make sure it's something that you can get everyone involved with—your team can come up with great ways to make sure it's an event that won't soon be forgotten. But you also can't forget to let your clients and customers know that you're taking part in this special occasion. Be sure to send out a card or email and let everyone know that you're participating in a special charity event, and that your clients are welcome to participate, too!

2. Decorate your social media sites. Another cheap way to get everyone into the holiday spirit! Change your banners, headers, and color themes to reflect the holiday of your choice. You can even change your logo by adding a little Jack-O-Lantern for Halloween or a cornucopia for Thanksgiving. The best part is that you can reuse these again next year—a great return on your very small investment. And when you're finished? Simply replace the logo with your usual fare and you're good to go.

holiday-store

3. Send out special holiday offers via email. This is one that you'll have to be careful with—you don't want to appear as if you're spamming, after all—but sending out special coupons or offers to customers who subscribe to your newsletter can be particularly effective. Make an announcement on your site. Say something like “only subscribers will receive a special deal via email, and they can look forward to receiving it just in time for the holidays.” The incentive can be whatever you want it to be—whether it's a coupon, a special one-of-a-kind item, or a free service. Whatever you can come up with!

4. Start thinking of gift suggestions. People choose different times to do their holiday shopping. While some wait until the last minute (right now would be a good time to capitalize on the Halloween costumes or decorations!), others do so months ahead of time (these people are already keeping an eye out for Christmas deals). You will want to keep your social media sites and blog updated with all the latest deals that would appeal to these shoppers.

5. Make yourself stand out from the crowd. We mentioned at the beginning of the article that you don't have the budget or resources to compete with the big companies. But you can make up for what you lack in budget with quality services.

For example, you're probably a small, local store. You can offer personalized attention to each and every client. Can a big-name store do that? No, they can't. You can also remind people that when they support your business, they're supporting local businesses and real people who contribute to the community. There are so many people looking to switch to buying local now (and sometimes exclusively), so this is a great way to let them know that you truly appreciate their business. If you have years of experience, highlight that. If you have a positive track record for customer satisfaction, mention it. And if you have a great story about how you came to build your business in your town, people will love to hear it. It's all about aligning yourself with the “big guys” in ways that highlight your strengths—not your lack of financial resources.

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By thinking a bit on the creative side, you can come up with some great ideas for digital marketing for the holidays—even if you're a small business without much revenue.

Do you have any other suggestions? Leave them in the comments below.

Back to Basics #16: 5 Ideas for Your Marketing Strategy

digital-marketing-icons

In our Back to Basics series, we’ve covered a wide range of topics, from the basics of SEO to implementing a few reliable social media strategies. But what if you’re looking for more ideas for your digital marketing strategy? What if you want to go above and beyond social media marketing? In this post, we’ll give you five great ways you can improve your digital marketing strategy without focusing solely on social media and local listings. As always, we try to supply helpful and affordable suggestions while keeping the small business owner in mind.

1. Build an app.

You know the line: “There’s an app for that!” Well, there might not be an app for that. There are plenty of ways small businesses can get in on the app craze. If you run your own restaurant, you can build an app to let customers place an order using their phones or tablets. You can offer periodic deals that only app subscribers can access. There are plenty of ways to get creative. And the best part is that now that apps are so popular, you can get one built on the cheap. Check out freelancing sites such as elance.com or fiverr.com to find prospective contractors!

2. Migrate to mobile-compatible platforms.

We can’t stress it enough: If you’re not mobile compatible, you’re falling behind the times. A lot of people are searching for small, local businesses using their phones. They want access to immediate information about the products and services they seek: Business hours, phone number, website, menu (if you’re a restaurant, obviously), and of course the street address. Many look for Yelp ratings or BBB listings. All of this can be found through a quick local search. Make sure that all of your website’s information is up to date and displays correctly on mobile phone screens as well as tablets. You can hire a designer to make sure that your site looks flawless on all devices, or you can sign up for a free site at squarespace.com or weebly.com and choose layouts that are mobile-friendly. (Or, Internet Local Listings offers a free website with our starter package!)

3. Focus on creating good content.

If you haven’t noticed already, social media visibility is becoming increasingly dependent on paid-for advertising. You want more people to find you on Facebook? Be prepared to spend money advertising. You want more people to retweet you? You’ll have to purchase promoted tweets. According to aforbes.com article, it’s only going to get worse. The monetization of social media is inevitable—with the amount of people using the services, companies are eager to shell out money in hopes of attracting more customers.

Of course, this unfairly discriminates against small business owners. Without the budget to push their ads out there, they get buried under the noise of larger corporations. The way around this? Start and regularly update a blog.

Google is always looking for great content. It helps you rank better and it helps keep visitors interested in your site. You’ll never have to pay to write your own thoughts down in a virtual “journal.” So get started with a free blogging platform such as Wordpress or Blogger and make sure that your voice is still being heard amongst the never-ending calls for you to spend money on advertising.

4. Create a podcast.

You might be raising your eyebrow at this one. You probably don’t know how to make a podcast, and that’s okay—not a lot of people do. But that’s precisely why it can put you ahead of the curve. Small business owners can get in on the podcasting craze and reach an audience that their competitors can’t. Run a yoga studio? Talk about the health benefits of yoga, interview students who have seen great health benefits, and give listeners a weekly yoga challenge. Are you an electrician? Talk to your listeners about seasonal electrical tips, how to save money on electrical bills, and how to use your existing décor to spruce up your interior decorating. There are plenty of things you can talk about in a podcast. Make a list of things you are interested in that relate to your field or industry. Then check out sites like RawVoice or Wizzard to get ideas and find out more about podcasting.

5. Hire Digital Marketing for Small Business.

You probably won’t be surprised to hear that search engine optimization still delivers one of the highest returns on your monetary investment. Take a look at Moz’s handy-dandy chart here and see which things small businesses could handle easily on their own vs the amount of time that needs to be invested. You’ll immediately notice that SEO is affordable and the results are worthwhile. However, you’ll also see that it requires a large time investment and an expert to help you navigate the subtleties that come with the SEO process. Digital marketing doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg, though—you can check out our plans and pricing to see which works the best with your budget and long-term goals.

 

Is there a digital marketing strategy that you would recommend to a small business owner? Leave it in the comments below!

7 Helpful Social Media Management Tools for Small Businesses

busy-business-owner When you own your own business, it is time-consuming enough to try to manage all of your daily tasks—but you know you have to get them done if you want to be successful.

You probably also know that nowadays, you have to be on social media if you want to bring in new business. But what if you simply don’t have the time to keep up with everything? What if you’ve tried and tried, and still, you are spending too much time doing repetitive tasks which take away from your normal schedule?

In this post, we’ll give you 7 tools that you can use to help automate and better organize your social media updates. Most of these are useful for almost any social media site you can think of, but several focus specifically on Twitter. Why? Because Twitter demands more time and attention to be effective than do sites such as Facebook, Google Plus, or LinkedIn. If you’d like to know more about scheduling updates, check out our post on how to improve your social media strategy.

With that being said, let’s dive in and start with one of our absolute favorites: BufferApp.

1. BufferApp

bufferapp

BufferApp is a free app that you can install on your phone or browser. With just the click of a button, you can “queue” tweets, Facebook and G+ posts, and LinkedIn and App.net updates. With the free version of Buffer, you can queue up to 10 updates at a time across each social network, and you can choose to have them appear whenever you like. For example, if you have a promotional event coming up and you want to post an update a week before the event, once two days before, and once the day of, you can schedule the posts to pop out at those specific times. But that doesn’t mean you can only schedule one update a day, of course—if you want to schedule ten tweets in a day, you can! Plus, you can save and rearrange schedules as needed. And if your updates get out of order, you can drag and drop them into position. It’s easy and intuitive, so it’s perfect for the small business owner who doesn’t have much time to dedicate to updates.

Another great feature of BufferApp is the curated content. If you’re running low on ideas, Buffer features 25 shareable updates that you can add to your queue. From quotes and inspirational articles, to posts about improving your business, you can find tons of interesting things here without having to scour the web.

Bonus: With the “Awesome” plan, you get a lot more versatility with your posts. You can have multiple schedules running—for example, run one Twitter schedule for the weekdays and one for the weekend—and you can queue many more posts at once, saving you time for the entire month if you so choose. Analytics is also available to Awesome plan subscribers, so you can easily see what times your customers are responding to posts, how many people are engaging, and who is sharing your updates.

Explore BufferApp’s features here: https://bufferapp.com/

2. HootSuite

hootsuite

Similar to Buffer, HootSuite offers you the ability to schedule updates. You can even auto-schedule messages between chosen times. But there’s a downside—unlike Buffer, which allows you to schedule up to 10 updates at once with the free version, HootSuite’s free account only allows you to schedule one update at a time.

But if you’re willing to pay $9.99 a month for the “Pro” plan, HootSuite gets way more in-depth than BufferApp does.

For starters, if you subscribe to the Pro plan, you can manage 35 social media profiles—far beyond BufferApp’s “big five”. You can also schedule up to 350 updates at a time. Furthermore, you get advanced analytics reports telling you who is sharing your updates and when, and you also get training from “HootSuite University” to help you understand all of the features that HootSuite offers.

But if you’re on a small budget and only want the free version, don’t worry—you still get lots of flexibility. Import up to 2 RSS feeds to capture and publish content from your blog or other blogs. Connect your social media profiles and organize them into tabs to sift through the important information you want in seconds. And of course you’ll be able to see basic statistics such as retweets, mentions, likes, plus ones, etc.

Check out HootSuite's plans here: https://hootsuite.com/

3. RavenTools

raventools

RavenTools is a godsend for companies that want everything from analytics to social media all under one convenient dashboard. Raven is different than the previously mentioned apps, because it works on all site data (not just social media) behind the scenes and presents it to you in graphs, reports, or emails—whatever you'd like. For example, you can set up your campaign to include reports compiled from your Google analytics data, or you can do keyword research to see which keywords you should be using in your advertising campaigns. Raven also helps you send out press releases though PRWire, manage your blog posts, and set up AdWords. When you've decided on all the information you'd like, Raven can run a report and deliver it to you.

And what if all of these features don't really interest you?

No worries. Like all of the other tools mentioned so far, Raven can schedule updates for social media accounts; however, it is presently limited only to Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and YouTube.

The downside to Raven is that it costs money from the get-go--$99 a month for the Pro package. So if you're looking for something powerful and all-encompassing, Raven's well worth the money. But if you need something simple, you would probably be better off looking elsewhere.

You can find more information on RavenTools here: http://www.raventools.com/

4. Social Oomph

socialoomph

With Social Oomph, you can manage unlimited Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Plurk, and App.net accounts from one dashboard. Social Oomph probably has some of the most in-depth features of any social media management system. For example, if you sign up for a free account, you can tweet up to 12 times in 60 minutes, but if you pay for the “Pro” package, you'll be able to tweet as often as you like. You can also set up your Twitter account to auto-curate people you follow into your lists, find friends based on keywords, and deny spambot follow requests. You can save and reuse drafts of all your social media posts (not just Twitter)—so if you have something you'd like to post about on a regular basis, Social Oomph has you covered.

You can many get bonus features by signing up for the “Professional” package, with a number of billing options to choose from. You can also purchase certain upgrades for only Twitter if you need more tweeting versatility, but are fine with the free options already provided for Facebook, LinkedIn, Plurk, and App.net.

We can't list everything Social Oomph does here, so check out their site and take a look for yourself: https://www.socialoomph.com/

5. Tweepi

tweepi

Tweepi does many of the things Social Oomph does, but it's used purely for Twitter accounts. One of the handiest features that Tweepi offers its subscribers is the follow en-masse option, as well as the “date unfollowed” feature. For example, you can search for people to follow by keyword, and Tweepi will bring up a list of people you might be interested in. If you like, you can select everyone on the page and follow them simultaneously. You can also unfollow them simultaneously if you need to. Tweepi diligently tracks when you've followed and unfollowed Twitter users so that you don't accidentally ditch someone or re-follow someone you've unfollowed in the past. This is particularly handy when you see that you've followed someone a month ago and they're still not following you back. Time to unfollow that user!

Tweepi also allows you to look at other Twitter users' lists and follow the users on that list. Or you can check out who follows one of your idols and grab those accounts. You can also purge people who haven't tweeted in a long time. You can even view a list of people who are following you, but you aren't following back.

All of this is available with the “Pro” account for $14.99 a month, or you can use the basic package for free. You will have limited options with the basic account, though, and to be honest, it's not really worth using for free when you compare it to something like Social Oomph. You also can't schedule updates—Tweepi is solely for finding and purging people from your account. But don't underestimate its power in that regard: it is very helpful if you want to grow your following quickly.

You can find out more about Tweepi's features here: http://tweepi.com/

6. If This, Then That

 

iftt

If This, Then That is far too versatile to cover in such a short section, but we'll do our best to show you how exciting it can be. And once you start using it, you'll wish you had known about it sooner.

The idea behind this app is that you can set up one event to trigger another. For example, every time you post a picture to Instagram, you could have the photo automatically sent to your Dropbox account for a family member to download later. You could set up your phone to send you a weather report once you've entered a specific location. You can even send yourself wake-up calls.

For social media management, you can cross-post to multiple social media platforms at once. Or you could even combine ITTT with BufferApp and feed your RSS through Buffer to make sur that you tweet without spamming. There are so many things you can do... and it's all free.

The downside to ITTT is that it's not meant to queue up multiple social media updates. This is meant to help organize your daily tasks and simplify your life—something a small business owner can surely appreciate.

Find out more about all of the cool recipes you can make here: https://iftt.com/

7. Dlvr.it

dlvrit

Dlvr.it is similar to IFTT in that you can set up “recipes” for one event to trigger another. For example, you can set up your RSS feed to go automatically to Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and more. You can also manually schedule posts if you'd prefer to do it from Dlvr.it's dashboard. It's a way to syndicate your content in a number of areas with very little effort.

Dlvr.it is not really meant to schedule updates. Again, it's meant to simplify and organize your life. All you have to do is plug in your RSS feed and your new stories will pop out on a variety of social media platforms. You don't even have to think about it. Plus, you'll get analytics and geographic data to see if your posts are drawing in your audience.

As with all of the other services we've covered in this article, Dlvr.it is more useful when you pay for the “Ultimate” or “Enterprise” plans. Although it's versatile on its own with the “Pro” plan, you'll get faster feed updates with more inputs if you upgrade.

Check out dlvr.it's features here: https://dlvr.it/

There are so many reasons that small business owners should consider automating updates: to save time, to ensure a regular update schedule, and to keep your profiles active. But with this being said, you need to remember that this will never take the place of interacting with your customers. Engagement is an integral part of your social media marketing strategy.

Can you think of any other apps that you like using? Let us know in the comments!

Back to Basics #15: Do it Like a Small Business SEO Company

small business team seo company By now, you’ve probably read a number of articles about how you, as a small business owner, can learn how to do SEO to benefit your own business. You may have read about how important it is to be on Twitter or Facebook; you probably saw studies claiming that a specific keyword density is key to ranking well; you may even have considered buying links to get more traffic.

It can all be confusing. It can be expensive. And honestly? It sometimes doesn’t seem like it’s worth the effort, does it?

Well, we’re here to help you out. In this post, we’ll show you five easy ways you can get involved with your company’s marketing campaign just like a small business SEO company would do. With these tips, you’ll begin to see results that definitely pay off.

plagiarism comic

Image courtesy of: Olive Harvey College Library Guides

1. Make friends with Copyscape. Are you writing your own content? Have you tried optimizing your front page or started a blog? You'll definitely want to look into using Copyscape. For no cost, you can enter your site's address and Copyscape will scan the web looking for plagiarized text. If your blog or site content have indeed been plagiarized, it can hurt your rankings. Furthermore, if you're using references in your writing, you might want to run your text through Copyscape. The last thing you need is to be blamed for plagiarism from your end. Make sure your content is 100% original all across the board, and you'll be better off for it.

2. Make content easily shareable. When people read an article and enjoy it, they immediately look for the “share” button. They want to tell their family and friends about the great thing they've just read. It would follow, then, that if you don't include sharable links at the end of your post, you've just potentially cost yourself thousands of views. Be sure to make it easy for your visitors to share your content to all the most popular social media platforms, and you'll notice that your content will be shared more frequently. If you need help figuring out how to set this up, there are plenty of tutorials around the internet as well as easy-to-install plug-ins for blogging software such as Wordpress.

3. Get your customers involved through reviews. We've written about this in the past, but it's so important that we feel we should reiterate here: your customers need to be involved with your company through reviews. There's a fine line between asking and encouraging your customers to participate willingly, and pushing your wishes in their faces aggressively. You can encourage customers to leave reviews by putting a sign up in your store, offering a coupon as compensation, or even provide a free service with proof of a positive review. Reviews not only help people searching for your services find your store, they also help you stand out in the crowd. Searchers nowadays rely on sites such as Yelp to help them make decisions about which business they want to give their money to. Don't let this opportunity slip through the cracks—you'll be surprised at how much good reviews can help.

pay per click advertising for small businesses

4. Consider PPC (pay-per-click) advertising. If you're just getting your business off the ground, we'll be honest: It can take some time for Google to start picking it up and ranking it. But that doesn't mean that you can't make the most of the time in between. You can purchase ads from Google for only a few dollars a day and they'll appear alongside search results related to your keywords, helping guide visitors to your site. Google ads allow you to get the word out about your site in ways that organic ranking can't; at least not in the beginning. Check out Google's free keyword planner to take a look at keyword suggestions you can use in your ad campaigns.

5. Try your hand at video advertising. A big part of advertising nowadays is visual. Think about it: If you're on Facebook or Twitter, you probably share images and videos all the time! That's why it's important that you get into the habit of creating media content for your company's social media sites. People are much more likely to share media than they are to read through a “wall of text”. Furthermore, video advertising helps a lot with SEO and ranking. Google gets strong ranking signals from videos and the keywords used in them. Even if you don't have a big media budget, you can still put together helpful “how-to” videos or showcase happy customers recommending your products and services.

You can do it like the SEO companies!

With these tips, you can easily dip your toes into the waters of advertising and marketing. It might sound cliché, but if you don't start small, it'll be too much for you to manage all at once and you'll feel as if you're drowning. You can do it like the small business SEO company professionals by trying these few simple tips! And as always, if you need help and advice, Internet Local Listings is here to help. We offer everything from business listings to custom content to personalized websites! Visit us here for more information.

Any other tips you can think of that we missed? Let us know!

Back to Basics #13: Why Am I Not Showing Up on Google?

woman-thinking-about-seo It’s a question a lot of small business owners have: Why am I not showing up on Google? You’ve made sure you’re listed on all the major business listings, you’ve optimized your posts and images, and you’re still not seeing your name pop up at the beginning of the results. What gives?

Unfortunately, Google is slow at crawling, indexing, and shifting listings around. And it can be really pokey for newer websites. To make matters worse, once you finally get the hang of things and begin ranking, you can easily be derailed by a change in the algorithm, which means you'll have to find a way to crawl back up to the top of the listings once again. It’s not easy, and it’s definitely not fun.

To illustrate our point, we’ve put together an article that should help explain how everything works. To help you understand our process, we’ll use a “garden” metaphor. Your business is like a garden—you have individual plants, or products, that you want to “grow”. But a garden doesn’t produce the best fruits and blooms overnight. It takes time. So let's take a look at our gardening strategy...

seed packets

Step 1: Plan and Prepare. After you’ve signed up with us, you’ll talk to one of our account specialists to make sure we get the correct information for your listing. Generally speaking, this is a smooth process. However, mistakes are sometimes made, and we encourage our customers look over their account information to ensure accuracy. If something’s off, let us know! We’ll get it changed as soon as possible. This sets the groundwork for your internet marketing campaign, so it’s important that we provide as detailed and accurate information as we can.

Step 2: Select Your Seeds. Once we have all customer-approved information, we can begin discussing keyword choices. Choose some of your own, and our experts will come up with a few as well. Think of your keywords as the seeds for your garden: once selected, we’ll come up with content that will help people find you using the keywords you've selected. For example, if you’re a roofing contractor, you might want to rank for “roofing”. However, this is a highly competitive keyword, and often it’s just too vague. To get more accurate results, most people will search for something more specific. Our experts will help you find more descriptive terms that are much more likely to get you ranking on the first page.

planting-seeds

Step 3: Plant Your Seeds. Now that you have your keywords selected, our experts will write custom content that helps Google and other search engines associate your chosen terms with your business name. We’ll add detailed content descriptions to localize and promote your business. Your site will be submitted across a wide range of directories, so that no matter how or where people search, they can find your business. It’s like nurturing any plant seed—with regular attention and the proper nutrients, it will grow into a healthy plant. The more time spent on optimizing listings and creating custom content for your listings, the better the results will be! Which brings us to…

Step 4: Give it Time. This brings us back to the problem at the beginning of the article. You’ve done everything you can—now why aren’t you ranking? Well, that’s because you need to give your listing time to “grow”. There are a lot of factors that go into ranking, such as how many competitors you have, how well they’re ranking, and the type of service you provide. If you’re a seasonal supplier, you might have more obstacles to overcome during certain times of the year. However, this doesn’t mean that your listing won’t take root—it will probably just take a little longer to begin ranking due to the decreased demand for services. Consistency and accuracy of listings also plays a major role, as do regular updates. Furthermore, it is impossible to begin ranking overnight. Many people are all too anxious to see their business showing up on Google—and rightfully so!—but unfortunately, it takes time no matter how successful your business already is. You can purchase Google ads to increase likelihood of click-throughs and you can definitely place ads on Facebook or other social media sites, but if you want to rank organically (that is, pop up when someone searches for your products or services), you have to give your garden time to grow.

Grandmother with her granddaughter working in the garden

Step 5: Water with Care. At Internet Local Listings, we keep up-to-date with the latest listings and search engine algorithm changes. What does this mean for your company? It means that when we find a new place to submit your listing, we’ll do it for you. When Google makes changes, we make sure we comply. To bring us back to the garden analogy, it’s part of caring for the plants—weed out bad practices and nurture the ones that are known to work. But keep in mind that with every new or changed listing, it can take Google a few days to approve the changes. There’s no need to worry if you notice your listings have changed—everything should be back to normal soon!

Step 6: Keep Up the Maintenance. As long as you’re in business and want to remain on Google’s front page, you’ll have to keep maintaining your listings. As part of our agreement, Internet Local Listings will take care of this for you. If you need to make any changes to your listings, be sure to let us know and we’ll get your information updated ASAP. If you want to change keywords, we’ll be happy to help you with that, too. It’s our job to make sure that you’re 100% satisfied with your listings across the internet, so we encourage you to reach out and contact us with any questions or concerns.

garden-infographic

Want more information on our internet marketing services? Just visit us at InternetLocalListingsInc.com and we'll be happy to assist you in any way we can!

Back to Basics #12: An Introduction to SEO Hosting

woman-drawing-a-website-edit In other Back to Basics posts, we’ve talked about the importance of SEO, how to implement simple SEO techniques on your site, and how to best work with an internet marketing company to ensure you’re getting the most bang for your buck. Something we haven’t gone into much depth about, however, is SEO hosting. SEO hosting is basically a term meaning your internet marketing company will optimize a website that they’ve built especially for your business. It doesn’t require a whole lot of participation from the clients’ end—you can be as involved or as uninvolved as you choose to be, really—but it does require patience and a basic understanding of what role a website plays in the SEO process. So in this post, we’re going to go over the basics of SEO hosting and hopefully help you understand how this process can help get your site ranking higher in the most popular search engines.

SEO Hosting: What is it?

As mentioned above, SEO hosting applies to websites that are built using current search engine optimization techniques. This includes anything from blogging using strategic keywords to optimizing images and videos through detailed “alt” descriptions, captions, and names. If you sign up with a web design company and request that they also manage your site, you should be aware of their content marketing practices before you agree to any long-term relationship. Do you know if they’re optimizing your site for you? Or are they just using stock text and photos without customizing the content? As a small business owner, it’s important that you get involved with your internet marketing/web design company, because unfortunately, there are far too many stories of small business owners completely trusting their marketing team without understanding the basic marketing process, only to end up being cheated out of thousands of dollars because they didn’t know how to tell if something was going wrong. By learning a bit more about SEO hosting and how it works, you can avoid being stuck in this situation yourself.

SEO Hosting: Do you need it?

Even after learning the basics of internet marketing and getting a grasp on how SEO hosting works, you may be asking yourself if you even need these services. And, to be fair, it can be a very big project to undertake, and perhaps it seems as if it's more trouble than it’s worth.

Well, it is a big project to undertake. But you can't afford not to do it.

Because the truth is, if you want your website to be found by potential customers or clients, you’re going to have to learn how to play the marketing game. And if you don’t have the time, desire, or motivation to do so, there is always help available—so really, there’s no excuse to not be involved with SEO hosting in some capacity, even if you aren’t managing it all yourself. After all, you want improve your chances of showing up on the first page of Google and other popular search engines. You need to deliver a great web experience to each of your site’s visitors. You must engage on social media and create a positive atmosphere where customers and clients feel like they can really get to know your brand. And all of these things are extremely important to your customers, so it’s well worth the time and cash investment.

So long answer made short? Yes, you need SEO hosting, and it helps to understand the basics of the process at the very least. No excuses!

SEO Hosting: Who should I look for?

There are a lot of companies that offer SEO hosting. You can find web designers who will optimize your site from the get-go as well as internet marketing companies that can take over the process with an existing site, even if you’ve had your domain for a long time. And don't worry if you have had a site for many years and haven't begun learning about SEO yet--it’s never a bad time to create a marketing strategy, and the sooner you do so, the better off you’ll be.

It’s also important to know that SEO practices change all the time. Google (and other search engines, such as Bing and Yahoo!) adjust their ranking algorithms frequently. What that means is what works for SEO hosting today might not work in a month. Those who specialize in search engine optimization are quite familiar with this aspect of digital marketing and will diligently read about upcoming changes on a regular basis, as well as implement new strategies when the time comes. Someone who doesn’t keep up with new developments in the internet marketing world isn’t someone you want to work with—in fact, they could jeopardize your hard-earned rankings. Google often penalizes sites that abuse older SEO practices, so make sure you and your web design team/internet marketing company are working together to develop accepted, effective practices and you’ll be good to go. [youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PrtweARWFFw?list=UUoyXcgTDuuRojwPEcfNKELw]

SEO Hosting: Where can you find it?

A great place to start looking for SEO hosting is with trusted internet marketing companies. Of course we’re going to showcase our talents here, but there are a number of places you can go to find experienced marketing experts to work with your company. The most important part of this process is determining what your goals are. For example, do you need to start a new website? If so, then you’ll have to consider whether you want to hire an SEO hosting company or a marketing company and website design company separately. Do you want someone to take over the marketing of your existing website? You can still choose an SEO hosting company to make sure your site’s design and implementation is in accordance with best SEO practices; or, you may simply choose an online marketing company to help you with content production, local listings claims, and social media management. You can get involved with the process or monitor it as you see fit. Just make sure that you know who you’re working with and what your goals are before you begin and you’ll get the best results.

With over 50 years of combined experience in the internet marketing industry, Internet Local Listings is a trusted source for SEO hosting across the US and Canada. Some of our specialties include: ensuring local listings are consistent and clearly listed across the internet; writing custom, optimized content to help your listings rank better; and designing and optimizing websites for all of our clients (although we offer premium packages for those who want more control over design and content).

So if you’re ready to take the plunge, click here to learn more about our SEO hosting services with our new sister site, MyBusinessSites.com, or visit our contact us page and send us a callback request. We’ll be happy to discuss your needs at your convenience.

Back to Basics #11: 5 Small Business Marketing Ideas Anyone Can Do

small business marketing ideas Small business marketing is a tricky thing to get the hang of: Small business owners often struggle knowing when or how often to post updates on social media; what to post about or how to gather content ideas; or even when to start blogging or how to connect with potential readers. It can be overwhelming, to be sure, especially when you are strapped for time and have a limited budget. So in this article, we’re going to talk a bit about a few small business marketing ideas that anyone can do easily and cheaply—whether you’re completely new to online advertising or you’ve been trying your hand at it for a while and just aren’t seeing the results that you want.

  1. Develop a PR Strategy. As this article from Entrepreneur suggests, it’s important for all companies, particularly small businesses, to make sure that they have a PR strategy in place. Now, this doesn’t mean that you have to have a large budget or spend a ton of time on it—in fact, small businesses can implement great PR campaigns into their social media strategies. Take the Kleenex example cited in the article: In 2011, Kleenex searched Facebook to find fifty people who posted about being sick. After getting into contact with friends and family members, they sent care packages to the ailing cold-sufferers. The recipients were so pleased that they posted happy pictures of their care packages. Great PR and usage of social media in one shot—and a very cheap maneuver.
  2. Start a podcast. Have you ever subscribed to a podcast? They’re great to listen to on the commute to work or in the morning while getting ready to head out for the day. And they’re also easy to make! As Inc.com suggests, you might want to try interviewing other business owners for their point of view on marketing or advertising. Or maybe you’d like to put together a podcast series of how-to’s—for example, plumbers or electrical contractors do very well with these types of podcasts. You can teach people how to do things they want to learn more about, while still drawing attention to your company. It’s a win-win situation!
  3. Forget advertising like the big brand names. While it’s perfectly fine to draw inspiration from popular advertising campaigns, you have to remember who the big companies are marketing to. They can reach far more people than you are able to, and they have the budget to pull it off. Don’t waste your time trying to dissect everything a large company does---instead, focus on how you can connect with your local customers in the best way possible. You could try hosting a photo captioning contest on Facebook where the winner gets a coupon. You could try running a “special offer” for a day if one of your tweets gets 50 retweets. Maybe sending out a postcard to your loyal customers is a good idea. Think about these types of marketing techniques and choose one that works for you.
  4. Networking with other small business owners. Nowadays, you can easily network online through sites such as LinkedIn. But nothing will ever replace the face-to-face value of networking in person. To meet other people in your industry, attend local seminars. Offer to speak at colleges or other events. If there are conventions in your area, look into speaking on a panel—or if not speaking, attend and ask questions. You could even try going to a book club or submit a press release to your local newspaper. By connecting with other small business owners, you’ll be able to better navigate the local scene and make yourself a go-to brand name in the town.
  5. Claim your online listings. Believe it or not, your business could already be listed on places like Google and Bing. The problem is that you haven’t claimed the listings yet. By claiming your own listings, you let your customers know that you exist, and you provide consistent information so that no matter which search engine they use to find you, your information will always be correct. Furthermore, claiming listings helps with online rankings, and once you are listed consistently across the internet, you’ll see more traffic being driven to your site!

Want more information on small business marketing ideas? Subscribe to our posts via email, or you can also like us on Facebook, follow Follow @InternetListing on Twitter and Pinterest, and circle us on Google Plus! Let us know how Internet Local Listings can best assist you with your small business marketing needs!

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[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RsWi7OXDW1Y]

Following Your Website’s Ranking Progress

Following Your Website’s Ranking Progress If you’ve put the time and effort into SEO practices such as blogging, listing your store in directories, and promoting your store on social media, then you know how important it is to keep track of your progress. You need to see if your efforts are paying off, after all—why waste energy and perhaps even money if you don’t see any positive results? There are a lot of reasons to keep track of ranking data, but if for nothing else, you'll want to know to make sure that your marketing campaign is going in the right direction.

So, with this in mind, what is the best way to follow your website’s ranking progress? In this post, we’ll go over a few ways you can do this without knowing a lot about SEO, coding, or even marketing.

  1. Google Analytics. You can sign up for a free account with Google Analytics and have most of the hard work taken care of for you. All you have to do is insert a simple code into the “header” section of your website and Google will begin tracking all the visitors! You can see where they’re coming from, how long they’re spending on your site, which pages they’re looking at, and more. But perhaps the most valuable thing in terms of rank checking is being able see which keywords clients are using to find you. And if you’re paying for ads, Google Analytics will also show you which paid keywords are helping people find you. This is simple, cost-free, and a very powerful way of keeping track of ranking data.
  2. Search and find method. If you’re not as technically inclined, you can definitely do a simple search and see if your site is pulled up. Now, this is inferior to using something like Google Analytics because you will have to type in every keyword that you want to check. Analytics, on the other hand, might find an obscure keyword or phrase that searchers are using to find you—ones you may never have thought of. But if you're still set on searching for terms on your own, then take comfort in the fact that it’s possible to check choice keyword rankings simply by Googling and seeing if your site appears. It’s best to then keep track of your progress by searching once every two weeks or so and logging position in an Excel spreadsheet.
  3. Find a reliable page where you can download or utilize a rank checker. Sites like moz.com and alexa.com allow you to check your rank with their online tools. It’s easy to use them—simply type in your URL and view your results. The only downside to this is that to get the in-depth stats that you’re looking for, you’ll have to pay. With Moz, it’s free for 30 days, and then $99 a month; Alexa also offers a free 30-day trial with tiered plans available after the trial ends, starting at $9.99 a month for the basic package and going up to $799 a month for the most advanced package.
  4. Talk to a web developer. If you want the best results but you don’t know how to use Google Analytics, and don’t want to pay for an extra service such as Moz or Alexa, your best option is to talk to your web developer. A good web developer can set up your Google Analytics account for you and show you how to follow your website’s ranking progress, or they can prepare special reports for you. This is part of a web developer’s job, so if you’re already paying for someone to handle the coding for your site, you can have them handle rank reporting as well.
  5. Call us. At Internet Local Listings, we take care of compiling the ranking progress reports for you. Any time you want to know about your website’s standing, we’ll run a ranking report and email it straight to your inbox for you. Everything is presented in an easy-to-read format, complete with comprehensive details. It’s rewarding to see all that hard work paying off—and you deserve to know where your site stands. And, the best news of all: It’s included with any of our packages!

Finally, if you want the full website experience, you’ll be pleased to know that we also build premium websites for our clients. If you choose the website package, you’ll get to have professional web developers working on your site to ensure it ranks well. Google Analytics can easily be implemented by our team, so you’ll never have to worry about figuring out code. View our pricing and plans here or simply fill out a contact form and we’ll get back to you as soon as possible. We’ll happily work with you to make sure you reach your ranking goals!

Resources:

Back to Basics #10: 3 Things You Need to Know About Local Marketing for Small Businesses

local-marketing-for-small-businesses Welcome back to another Back to Basics post! In this article, we’re going to talk a bit about a few simple things small businesses need to know about local marketing success.

When a brand is competing on a local level, it doesn’t need to focus on the same things that a national brand does. This much is probably obvious, but let's go over an example to make sure everything is clear. So let's say you’re an auto repair mechanic working in Wheelsville. (Hey, it could happen.) When people search for an auto mechanic, they might just type in “auto mechanic”--a simple, straight-forward query. Google is smart enough that they’ll bring up nearby results based on the searcher’s location, which could be one of a few cities in the area. But if the searcher is in a particularly small area or needs to find a service in a very specific location, they might type in “mechanic in Wheelsville,” and this time, Google will bring up all the most relevant results specific to Wheelsville.

What does this mean for you?

Simple: You need your address and listing optimized in order to get the best placement on search engine result pages. And to help you do this, here are 3 things you need to know about local marketing for small businesses—and they’re easier to get the hang of than you think!

3 Tips for Local Marketing Success!

1. Check and cross-check listings for accuracy. You won’t believe the number of business owners who are completely unaware of the status of their listings. Thousands and thousands of unclaimed listings exist on the internet—from listings on popular sites such as Google Places, to directories you’ve never even heard of (but that should still be used correctly). Use our scanner here to see if your site is listed correctly. (We promise, it won’t bite. Or lead you to a scary abyss.)

2. Local marketing is all about reviews. So get them from as many customers as possible! Offer an incentive for those who want to leave a kind review—a coupon, a complimentary treat, or a free tune-up. Whatever you feel you can offer to a customer for a review is a great way to get them to participate. Search engines derive relevancy from fresh content. For local businesses, some of the best signals you can give to the search engines are great ratings for your locally-listed business. Not to mention, when other customers stop by and read your ratings and reviews, they’ll be pleased with what they find, and of course, enticed to stop in and experience it for themselves.

3. The people who understand local marketing the best are the people who connect with customers. How can you easily (and cheaply) do this? You can pick a few social media sites to join and update regularly. By connecting with your customers via Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, or any other social media platform of your choice, you can be sure that customers will always be able to find you. This way, when people search for your business online, they’ll have a good chance of finding your social media sites as well. Basically, the more places you’re listed, the better—people will find you instead of your competitors.

What if you don't have the time to invest in learning or implementing local marketing techniques?

Now, none of this information is particularly ground-breaking. It’s not going to shoot you to the top of the search results overnight. What it will do is give you a great head-start on local marketing for your small business. The sooner you get your business listed consistently, get your customers reviewing your business, and get started connecting with customers via social media, the better.

However, we understand that many small business owners don’t have the time to invest in local marketing strategies. If you’ve read through this article and decided it simply seems like it’s going to take too much of your valuable time, we hear you. Internet Local Listings has over 50 years of combined experience helping small businesses succeed at local marketing. If you feel that you need a helping hand, check out our affordable packages and join thousands of our other satisfied clients across the US and Canada!

If you liked this post, find more news here.

Working Effectively with Internet Marketing Experts

internet-marketing-experts So you’ve hired internet marketing experts to take over the marketing strategy for your small business. You’re excited to see results and you’ve already begun paying for your marketing team to begin the work. You check your rankings the next day, and it seems that you haven’t moved up at all. You check again after a week, and things still don’t seem to be going as planned. At this point, you’re frustrated and ready to tell them you’re finished—you want to work with a different internet marketing company. If you feel like this, you’re not alone. Many small business owners have felt the exact way you do—so in this article, we’re going to talk about making the most of your experience with internet marketing experts, and what you can reasonably expect while implementing your marketing strategy.

Internet marketing is not an overnight process.

When you hire a gardener to plant your garden and tend to the plants as they grow, you know the process will take time. You don’t expect a seed to germinate into a blooming flower the next day! The same thing goes for marketing. Internet marketing experts need to take a look at your individual case and plan accordingly. For example, some clients have zero presence on the internet—no website, no local listings, no blog. Others have been doing their own work and simply need assistance managing social media or content distribution. By the same token, there are industries in which there is a lot of competition—HVAC, roofing contractors, and auto mechanics. Other industries have an easier time ranking because they are one of a few businesses that provide a service in an area—people like dentists, medical specialists, or even psychics. Everyone’s case is different, and everyone takes a different amount of time to begin appearing on the first page. So how is this possible? Well, Google combs through data on a daily basis, and it begins to compare this data over time. So it makes sense that it’s not going to find your site, immediately deem it the “most relevant” and put it at the top of the search results above all of your competitors. It takes time for Google to weigh and determine site relevancy, so you must be patient as this process takes shape.

Changing things without consulting your marketing team can result in setbacks.

If you’re feeling antsy about a particular keyword not showing up, you might feel like you want to get rid of it and choose another. But if you go into your blog or Google Places and begin changing keywords around, you’ll eventually find that you can easily undo all the hard work you’ve put in already--even if you meant well. This isn’t to say you can never (or should never) change keywords—sometimes, you find that you’ll just stay on the second or third page indefinitely with the amount of competition you’re facing. In this case, talk to your marketing team and determine new keywords to use. Over time, you’ll hopefully see improvements for these terms. If you don’t see any new traffic growth over the first few months, then you definitely need to take a look at what’s going wrong and make adjustments accordingly. The main lesson here is to not go ahead and do things without consulting your team. You are, after all, paying them to help you rank. You should always understand one another and what your goals are. If there is no communication between you and your marketing experts, then you’ll essentially be throwing away money. You need to work together!

Get involved and learn about the process.

Obviously if you’re hiring internet marketing experts to manage your marketing strategy, it’s because you don’t have the time (or desire) to learn how to do marketing on your own. And that’s fine! But if you take the time to learn just a few basics about internet marketing, you’ll find that you can more easily follow along with the process and even enhance it. At Internet Local Listings, we do manage many clients’ Facebook pages and Twitter accounts. However, our clients often ask to be involved with the process, and we encourage it. By tweeting, updating your Facebook status, or writing content for your own page, you’re helping the process along and learning more about how to work with your internet marketing team as you go. That’s a great thing! By combining ideas and discussing tactics, you can enhance your team just like you would with traditional or word-of-mouth marketing. Give input, feedback, and get your hands "dirty", and you’ll get a lot more out of your internet marketing experience. If you would like to learn more about digital or online marketing, check out our Back to Basics series, where you can learn about SEO basics and discover simple changes you can implement on your site to help boost your rankings. If you want to hire a team of qualified internet marketing experts, simply give us a call at (888) 770-3950 or visit our contact us page and fill out a form. You can also use our scanner to see if your site is listed correctly across the internet! So contact us today to discuss your marketing concerns with our experienced, qualified internet marketing experts!   Check out these pages for more information on internet marketing tips:

 

Why Small Business Marketing is Essential in 2014 and Beyond

small-business-marketing-in-2014

small-business-marketing-in-2014 Getting the word out about your business has always been your top priority. As a small business owner, you already understand how important marketing is—whether it's word of mouth, fliers, direct marketing, or running local advertising campaigns, you know that you have to get the word out or your numbers suffer. But what many small business owners don't take into consideration is a marketing plan. And without some type of marketing strategy, you'll likely become frustrated, not knowing whether your efforts are paying off.

This is the primary reason that small business marketing is now non-negotiable. In 2014, we have a number of options to help us determine how and where to market to our clients: social media, blogs, video marketing, online local business listings, Google Places, and more. With all of these tools at our disposal, is there any excuse not to have a marketing plan in place?

No, there isn't. In this article, we'll talk a bit about why small business marketing is essential in 2014 and beyond. When you understand just how effective marketing is for your business, you'll have a better foundation to grasp the concepts of beginning your own marketing campaign.

Small business marketing is the only way to get the word out.

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You've heard of companies like Microsoft, Twitter, Facebook, and Apple. Why is that? Because they have a massive consumer base and they have massive marketing budgets. Their ads are fed to you frequently to ensure you know what the company is up to, and they make sure that their products stay up-to-date and relevant.

Now, you're probably thinking, “Well, I don't have that kind of money to spend on an advertising campaign!” and you're probably right. Most small business marketing budgets are scant. And that's okay. You don't need a ton of money to start seeing returns on your efforts. As we've discussed in previous articles, you can implement social marketing strategies for very little money, and you can get started with blogging completely free of charge. The best thing about this type of marketing is that you can begin to spend money whenever you like to boost your efforts. Want to place an ad on Facebook? You can spend as little as $5 a day to promote your business. Want to pay for a domain name and host your blog as a website? For less than $20, you can grab a domain name, and hosting can be as low as $3-5 a month. There's no reason you must feel like you are required to spend thousands of dollars just to be seen online.

When you get the word out with small business marketing, you begin to build your audience online. And that's the #1 most important thing.

In 2014, traditional networking is still important.

traditional-marketing

Networking. It sounds like a buzzword, and to some extent, that's what it's become. That aside, you should never underestimate the power of networking. If you go to local business expos, connect with influencers on Twitter and Facebook, and simply ask your customers to refer you to friends and family, then you're already networking. If you're not networking and these activities don't sound like they'll increase your sales, then think of it this way: you're building a strong reputation and a sturdy foundation of support and availability for your clients. And that is absolutely essential.

The easiest way to get started is to simply ask your customers to review you on Yelp and Google. This has the added bonus of sending “relevancy” signals to Google, helping you to rank higher. Many customers would be happy to submit positive reviews when asked, but they often don't bother to go online and leave reviews otherwise.

You can also get started on Facebook and Twitter for free. Place signs around your office or store that tell customers where they can find you online. Ask friends and family to spread the word. None of this will cost you a thing, except maybe an hour or two of your time to craft the signs!

Are press releases outdated? Nope. Not even close.

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Spread the word about newsworthy business developments: A new product, a sale, or a special event your company is attending or hosting. Try to send out a press release once a month to keep the word about your company relevant and fresh. This can cost money if you choose to promote your company online—you can pay anywhere from $120 to upwards of $250 to have your press release promoted on popular sites. But you don't have to do this. Small business marketing is all about leveraging your local connections. Talk to your local newspaper or ask to be on the news or featured on a radio show. You can talk about your new products or even offer customers a special discount if they mention your interview or article. By doing this regularly, you can easily make a good impression on your local community.

The new way of connecting to customers: Videos.

YouTube logo small business

Many small businesses specialize in a specific, niche service: Plumbing, dog grooming, notary services, etc. Think of how you felt when you first started learning about your industry. You probably felt overwhelmed and looked to professionals for guidance. Or consider how you feel when you want to save money and try to take care of things yourself—fixing a pipe or cleaning your roof, for instance. Many people look up tutorials now on YouTube.

This might seem counter-intuitive to teach your customers learn how to help themselves, but it is actually a great way for your customers and company to share a dialogue. It establishes you as an authority figure and expert in your industry. Plus, taking the time to create a video tutorial for your customers shows that you spend time thinking of their needs—and customers truly appreciate that. Finally, videos on YouTube, when properly optimized, send strong relevancy signals to search engines, and that helps your website rank higher.

And there you have it. Small business marketing is essential in 2014. You need to network to connect with clients. You need to create content to stay relevant on search engines. You need to connect with customers in new and innovative ways. As the internet grows more content-based, your small business will have to keep on top of these trends to ensure your customers are still finding you.

If you need assistance with any small business marketing services, Internet Local Listings is always here to help. Simply contact us here or visit our site for more information. We have a special running right now, too—so act fast and save money while you start bringing in more customers!

Mobile Marketing Tips for Small Businesses

Mobile marketing tips for small  businesses Today more than ever, it’s important for small businesses to optimize their websites for mobile access. According to statistics released by Strategy Analytics, as of 2012, more than one billion people used smart phones to access the internet. But to be brutally honest, sites that aren’t optimized for mobile devices load slowly and look terrible—and smart phone users immediately leave a site if this happens to them. And can you blame them? If you are browsing the internet, you don’t want to have to feel like you must solve a puzzle in order to use a website! So if your small business website isn’t optimized for mobile, that is a lot of potential business you’re losing out on. What can you do to remedy this?

In this article, we’ll take a look at three great mobile marketing tips for small businesses.

Mobile Marketing Tip #1: Responsive Design

As mentioned above, mobile web design needs to be implemented in order for smart phone (or tablet) users to browse your site effectively. Responsive design is a type of web design that detects which device a user is using to access your site, and adjusts the screen accordingly. This reduces load time, simplifies form submission (who likes typing out tons of information on a phone keyboard? No one, that’s who), and makes the site look professional and clean no matter how your visitors are logging on. Your customers deserve to have the best experience possible, and you owe it to them as a professional business owner!

Mobile Marketing Tip #2: Optimize Your Social Media Accounts

According to Constant Contact, up to 91% of local searchers use Facebook to find business online. When you sign up for Facebook as a business, you can fill out your location, business hours, phone number, and any other important local information. When a visitor finds you via search, they’ll be able to see all of this information displayed neatly on their mobile device. Setting up a Facebook account is easy—it takes fewer than 10 minutes to get the basics down. Plus, it’s free!

Setting up Twitter is also simple. You can localize your Twitter profile by filling out the “location” section, and add your website or contact information in your profile header. Many people search on Twitter for businesses, so make sure that you can be found easily and quickly by completing your profile fully. Like Facebook, Twitter is also free to use.

The bottom line? If you’re not on Facebook or Twitter, you could be missing out on a large amount of mobile traffic. And because both platforms are free, there’s no excuses!

For more information on social media marketing for small businesses, check out our article here: Developing Successful Social Media Strategies.

Mobile Marketing Tip #3: Opt-in for Text Messaging

This tip is a bit tricky, particularly for small businesses just getting into mobile marketing. You can allow your customers to opt-in for text message alerts. But here’s the catch: text messaging is pretty private, even if the customers DO want to sign up for alerts. So texts should only be sent when you have something better than normal to offer—a 24 hour sale, a limited inventory, or for a limited-time item that’s almost sold out. Allowing someone to opt-in can be a great way to get a customer back into your store and purchasing your products, but you have to remember to respect their boundaries.

Check out this resource to get started on building your website with responsive designs:

http://www.cio.com/article/2387279/developer/7-tools-to-build-websites-using-responsive-design.html

Or you can always visit Internet Local Listings and check out our websites. With our premium website packages, you’ll get 100% customized websites that look professional and are completely mobile responsive!

Do you have other suggestions for mobile marketing tips for small businesses? Leave them in the comments below!

Is Word of Mouth Marketing Still Effective?

word-of-mouth-marketing In today’s busy, online-centric world, you hear a lot about how social media is the answer to everything: more traffic to your website, more phone calls to your business, and more customers purchasing your products and services. As a small business owner, you don’t have a lot of extra money to spend on complicated advertising campaigns. While larger businesses have millions to pour into campaigns that they can adjust over time, you have a very limited budget and no excess to tweak your strategy in the future. So you’re probably still relying on word of mouth marketing. But is it still effective? Are you getting the most you possibly can from it?

Word of Mouth is Still a Reliable Marketing Method

Many small business owners say that they still use word-of-mouth advertising and that it is effective for their marketing efforts. In fact, two in three marketers say that word of mouth marketing is actually more effective than any other traditional marketing tactics they’ve tried. According to a study done by the Word of Mouth Marketing Association, 70% of marketers say that their companies will increase social media budgets in the next year, whereas only 29% say that they’ll spend more on offline word-of-mouth marketing. So what does this mean? It means that small businesses rely on word-of-mouth marketing, they find it to be effective, and because of this, they don’t see it as necessary to dump a bunch of money into it. It’s a safe investment for them because they get real results.

Word of Mouth Marketing is More Flexible Than You Think

If you think about it, you can still benefit from word of mouth marketing while utilizing modern social media tactics.

Sites like Angie’s List make it possible for your customers to leave feedback in an online space designed to market your business. Encourage your happy customers to leave you a glowing review to bring in more business. It’s like telling a friend that you really loved a restaurant and then they go and check it out. Someone recommends your site on Angie’s List and that’s a lot of clout.

Yelp  is also a great site to show how awesome your small business is. Again, encourage your happy customers to leave reviews and help spread the word about your business. Yelp is practically a go-to resource for those looking for local businesses.

Facebook is another way you can connect with local customers. When your customers share your statuses or interact with you on your page, they’re more likely to buy from you. In fact, 85% of customers who follow brands on Facebook are likely to recommend it to their friends.

You Can Still Encourage Customers to Spread the Word in Person

While all of these strategies work to spread the word about your company, simply talking to friends and family is still an effective way to bring in new customers. If you are in the business of working directly with clients—say, as a lawyer, doctor, or dentist—you have a lot to gain from this. People are far more likely to take recommendations from friends and family when it comes to important things like finances and health.

Let the experts at Internet Local Listings help you get the word out about your business. We’ll get you listed across all major online directories and we even provide updates for social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter. By working together, we can get people talking about your brand—and help you draw in new clientele.

Back to Basics #5: Blogging for Beginners

  blogging-for-beginngers

If you’ve never heard the saying “Content is King” then you’d better get used to hearing it now! When you run your own website, the best way to keep your clients up to date and to keep the search engines happy is to post new blog articles. Frequently.

Now, you may be thinking to yourself that you’re not a professional writer. Maybe you’re worried that that you simply don’t have time to update a blog. While you may be correct about not having formal training in writing, it’s more than likely not true that you don’t have the time to do this. You do. You just have to break it down into small chunks. In this article, we’ll talk a bit about how beginners can overcome the fear of putting their writing out there, and how they can find the time to keep updating regularly.

making-a-list-of-blog-topics

Blogging for Beginners Step 1: Create a List of Topics

Before you begin blogging, it’s a good idea to have a list of potential topics to write about. You may be tempted to just write about what you’re up to when you’re at work, or maybe something that’s going on with your family. While it’s important to keep that human connection in your posts, it’s also important to keep your customers informed of key topics relating to the services you offer. To help illustrate, let’s take a fictional business and talk about a few good topics they could use in their blog.

Sam’s Pest Control is a small, family-owned company in Anywhere, USA. They want to start a blog to connect with their customers and draw in new clients. They might want to write about things like:

  • What pest control can do for your home or business
  • How you’ll save money in the long run when you use a pest control service regularly
  • How to keep your home protected from pests
  • Innovations in humane pest control
  • How pest control services change with the seasons

And there are probably many more topics to choose from. But as you can see, by thinking outside the box, you can come up with a long list of blog topics that will keep you writing for months to come.

creating-a-blogging-schedule

Blogging for Beginners Step 2: Create a Blogging Schedule

Continuing with our Sam’s Pest Control analogy, we’ll take a look at how to build a schedule that you can work with, even if you’re busy running your own business.

Sam works Monday through Friday, and often, he works overtime. He’s exhausted when he comes home and definitely doesn’t think he has hours to spare on blogging. He’s a business owner, not a writer—so how is he supposed to manage all of this?

It’s simpler than he thinks.

First of all, don’t worry about writing grammatically perfect posts. You can edit and use a spell checker and still make your point. Obviously you should try to edit your post so that it makes sense, but don’t presume you have to craft perfect prose to be a successful blogger for your small business.

Second, set aside 15 minutes a night. Write however much you can—a good goal to start with is 100 words. If you do this five days a week, you’ll have one 500-word post to put up by the end of your workweek. And keeping up the schedule of posting once a week is a very realistic, very achievable goal for small business owners. Whether you choose to do it after dinner or right when you get home is up to you. Just create that schedule and stick with it.

which-blog-platform-should-i-use

Blogging for Beginners Step 3: Create Your Blog

Now that you have a list of topics and a schedule you WILL stick to (we believe in you!), you can go ahead and create your blog. Some people prefer to just update with text on their website. While this can work, it makes it difficult for people to find posts as you start to amass a lot of articles.

The better choice for a small business is to sign up for a free blog at Wordpress.com. You can also choose to go with other platforms like Blogger, but Wordpress has a lot of support and is widely used. In our experience, it runs more smoothly and has more customization options as well.

For your blog name, try to choose something short and to the point. Remember that this is connected to your company, so you’ll want to choose something relevant; something that conveys the company image. Sam’s Pest Control is, thankfully, a short enough company name that he can probably choose that. (It will end up looking something like samspestcontrol.wordpress.com.) If you have a longer company name (something like Sparkle Power Wash and Window Shine Company) you’ll want to shorten it to something that reflects your business’s services, such as “sparklewashco.wordpress.com” to keep customers from getting confused.

blog-customization

Blogging for Beginners Step 4: Customize Your Blog

So you’ve claimed your blog and you’ve prepared lists for post ideas. Good! Now you have to customize your blog and get it set up for visitors to see.

One of the worst mistakes a beginning blogger can make is choosing a terrible layout. The colors are awful, music starts playing when you navigate to the page (hint: NEVER do that; at least give visitors the chance to press play if they’d like to hear the music), and the pictures don’t align correctly.

Thankfully, this is actually a very easy thing to avoid.

When you sign up with your blogging service, they’ll provide free layouts. You can choose from any one of these and make your blog look sleek and professional without having to know a word of coding. Furthermore, most allow you to customize colors, fonts, and pictures, so you can still make the blog look unique without sacrificing utility or aesthetics.

blog-promotion

Blogging for Beginners Step 5: Promote Your Blog

Once you have everything set up and you’ve written your first post, you’ll have to promote it. You could have the best blog post in the world, but if you don’t put it out there, no one will find it! The internet is a huge place and there are lots of people vying for the attention of clients, including your competition.

So how do you make sure that the right people see your work?

Post it on all of your social media channels. Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Pinterest, LinkedIn—whatever you use, make sure you post a link to your blog. Try submitting to StumbleUpon. Reach out to local press outlets if you have an announcement to make about your company—maybe you’re rolling out a new product, or maybe you’ve hired a new employee and you want to do an employee spotlight. Whatever the news is, you can contact local journalists or blogs and see if they’d like to cover your post.

Finally, make sure your existing customers know about your social media sites and your blog. Invite them to follow you or sign up for a newsletter and you’ll be surprised at how many people will be happy to oblige!

 

Good luck with your new blog! With regular contributions and some effort to get the word out, you’ll soon be seeing new visitors and increased interest in your small business. And if you need help with the marketing aspect of this, don’t hesitate to contact Internet Local Listings. We’re social media marketing experts and would be happy to help you market your site!